Planning the Portlandia Backgammon Classic (Part 1 of ???)

Just to document and explain a bit of my thought process for posterity…

I’m about a month into the “serious” planning stage for the first annual Portlandia Backgammon Classic. So far, I’ve locked down a venue and dates, drafted a flyer, gotten feedback, made changes, sought more feedback, etc. My initial planning was to figure that February or March was the window in which I could conceivably do it – April starts to get busy for me at work, and so it had to be before then or after May, once things slowed down again. I sent an email with that vague amount of detail to USBGF, and was advised to give them at least three months runway to help get the word out, which meant March was better than February.

Well, the venue I had talked to back in June was booked up for both months, and so priority one was to find a new place. I sent out about 8 queries to hotels, restaurants, and other event spaces. Pricing and availability was all over the place. The airport Sheraton was the most flexible (assuming I would take one of the two weekends they had a last minute cancellation for, which I would), and by far the most affordable! So, I got the venue and dates locked down the Tuesday before leaving for Las Vegas for a work conference and the Las Vegas Open. That did not leave enough time to get the flyer finalized before, but at the suggestion of Bill Riles (of the San Antonio tournament), I made a very vague half-page flyer that at least got the word out. Of course, I also did not have time to update the Portlandia page of this website before then, so it was a vague half-pager leading to a vaguer landing page – but it was a start.

At the Vegas tournament, I had the opportunity to talk to a number of other tournament organizers: Bill, Carol, Patrick, and of course Howard. I got a lot of good ideas just from watching how Vegas was run, and benefited greatly from the many conversations. I was not far off in my thinking about how long I needed for the main tourney, but greatly modified my plans for the (limited) side events. And I walked away with a new stack of flyers to consider for inspiration. Also, USBGF brokered some help for me in the form of a “mentor” – Kristina, who had run the Seattle tournament while that was an ongoing event, agreed to serve as a sounding board and possibly even help run the event!

Today, I think I have finalized the flyer, and have sent it out to my semi-voluntary feedback committee. The main thing I was working on was setting the entry fees and rake. I used Chicago Point to get a better sense of the number of attendees to expect at each entry level, and looked up the flyers from a dozen or so tournaments to get a good idea of the expected entry fees. What I learned was that the open/championship bracket should have higher stakes than I was thinking, to make it more worth the while for people who want that level of play. There’s a wide variety of hospitality fees and rakes being applied at different tournaments, and I think I settled on one that makes sense. The hospitality fee will probably be excessive for the amount of food and beverage we’ll actually order, and the rake will probably be excessive for the amount we’ll actually spend on trophies, give-aways, supplies, etc. But that’s deliberate – the club has been running at a deficit since I took it over, and I want a grub-stake for making next year’s tournament bigger and better. If it goes especially well, I’ll drop the rake on the monthly meetup tournaments, and still be positioned to grow the “big” tournament for next year. For one thing, I do not assume I will get the screaming deal on the venue that I got this year ever again… I’m not asking for anything “out of market” with other tournaments, and so I think it will be well received.

If all goes well, the flyer will be finalized by end of the week, and I will start the advertisement push. Come January, it’ll be time to start arranging the physical items for the event (ordering trophies, etc.), and start filling in details. I’m very excited to be putting the event on – and I hope it will be a break-through type event for the local players. There’s certainly a decent amount of excitement from the people I talked to in Vegas, and so I’m pretty optimistic at the moment. I can’t wait to share the flyer with you all, and to see how this all shakes out.